Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chicken Dinners

We've grown bored with parlientary debate (especially since it looked
like things would go our way. We're now waiting in line for Mrs.
Knott's chicken dinner at Knott's Berry Farm. It's the 75th
anniversary of the chicken dinner.

General Convention

We are observing the debate in the House of Deputies of the General
Convemtion of the Episcopal Church on D025, which expresses our
commitment to the Anglican Communion and reaffirms the supremacy of
our Constition and Canons regarding equal access to all orders of
ordained ministry.

Saturday - General Convention and Urgent Care

Jim and I got moving surprisingly quickly on Saturday, so we decided to check out General Convention to see what's happening. Once we found our way in (like many Episcopal churches, not obvious, unless you know), we discovered all the hoopla that surrounds the third largest convention in the United States (only the Democratic and Republican parties hold larger conventions than the Episcopal church - yet our Convention represents only 2.4 million people, so theoretically, we're more representative than the parties).

All we really wanted to do was to scope out the exhibition floor. For a $15 day pass, we had the privilege of shopping and purchasing. You know how small the Episcopal church is when you every time you move 20 feet, you bump into someone you know. It's all fun, though, and we caught up with some old friends we haven't seen in awhile. We'll be back Sunday for the Convention Eucharist.

As we left Convention, we came across 3 scraggly Fred Phelps protesters announcing that we were all going to Hell. I took a picture, and someone commented that they'll pose wiht you if you go up to them. Nah - I'll pass.

However, as we left, it became very obvious that my sore throat was going to be an extreme problematic. I asked at the front desk if there was an urgent care near by. They recommended the MinuteClinic inside a CVS but gave me the wrong number. The MinuteClinic website said they accept insurance if you call to get pre-approval. I called my carrier, and was told to call back on Monday (?) ! Then, I checked my carrier's website and discovered that they recommen Concentra Urgent Care for walk-in needs. All you need to do is notify yor primary care phsicians as soon as possible after.

Well, there was one across from the Anaheim A's stadium about 10 minutes away, so we all headed over there. I was in line with 6 people awaiting drug tests. Since I was urgent care, I was bumped to the top of the list and seen by a surgeon who wanted to get home quickly since he came in for a lacerated finger earlier. He did score points for ask if I was an Episcopal or Roman Catholic priest, rather than assuming Catholic. Then he asked if I knew former Father Cutie. Oy! It turns out his son-in-law is a Methodist minister and he liked that the fact that Episcopal clergy not only could marry, but could marry any human being. Apparently he's going to Hell with the rest of us if the protesters are right. :)

So, my throat is fire engine red, my lungs are clear, my glands slightly swollen. A prescription for a Z-pac for probably strep and I'm on my way. The co-pay will be billed to my home address so I'm not even poorer for experience.

After finding a CVS to fill the scrip, we head back to the hotel to change for the parks and get in exactly at the time we planned.

Since I wasn't in commando mode, Katie (!) took the lead. I had just taken a double dose of antibiotics on an empty stomach, so I was ordered to eat while they shopped. Lunch/Dinner was at the River Belle Terrace in Frontierland - a pulled pork sandwich with fruit salad, and a strawberry shortcake for dessert. Jim had a garden salad and cheesecake.

Leslie and Katie revisit Pirates of the Caribbean while we eat, then we joing up for the Haunted Mansion, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Pooh has the best gift shop. Unlike WDW, where Pooh is highly visible, here, there it is tucked back in Critter Country so no one ever finds it. The gift shop has a great candy section, and pretty good merchandise. So, we deciced to use Jim's brithday gift card here on a pith-helmet Eeyore and pith-helmet Pooh to join our pith-helmet Tigger at home. We also picked up a couple of pins, and a new Mickey coffee mug for Jim.

Then, Leslie decided she really needed that "fresh from the microwave" flavor of Disney Pizza, so the closest place to find cheesy dough was at Pinocchio's Village Haus in Fantasyland. After we were seated, I continued my new klutzy tradition and upended my hot tea all over Jim. No scalding took place. Our first day here, I upended my diet coke all over Leslie, so I guess it's Katie's turn next.

While getting my refill of tea, I had a Disney moment. Two Arab kids (language, complexion, t-shirt), were ordering a kids meal to share - they were about 8 or 9 and the older one knew enough English to interpret for the younger one). However, after they ordered, they left - instead of going to the counter to wait for delivery. Their number came up right before mine - I recognized their order and told the server to hold a sec while I soped out the seating area for them. I found them and gestured for them to get their food. They were happy, the server was pleased, and I had hot tea so my throat was happy. Actually, the two kids reminded me of the novel the Kite Flyer.

After dinner, we went to Snow White's Scary Adventures with its abrupt ending (witch pushed off cliff, "and they all lived happily ever after." Yet, Snow White is still in her deep sleep without her Prince? Hmm. Fractured Fairy Tale). Then Jim and I rode the Tea Cups, which are really fun on antibiotics! Alice in Wonderland dark ride, and a massive search for more water to soothe my throat as we make our way to check in for the Fantasmic Dessert Package.

After our seats were assigned, we had enough time for another ride-through at the Haunted Mansion - it's really fun after dark, with slightly moodier cast members and screamier guests. Then, back to be seated for the show.

The Fantasmic Dessert Package is reserved seating for a cost in a prime viewing area along the Rivers of America in New Orleans Square. People campt out for the show as much as 4 hours ealier, so it's worth spending the money if you want at least one stress-free experience of watching Disney's best night time show ever. We're seated 30 minutes before show time, and given drinks of choice (hot chocolate for me as hot beverages really soothe the throad), and tehn a pre-packaged dessert box that Jim calls Bento Dessert. It's a mix of sweets, cheese, crackers, cookies, and fruit and way too much to eat in one seating so we have yummies in the hotel room.

After the show (which Katie and Leslie both pronounced excellent), we were allowed to stay in our seats for the fireworks. While they are focused on the castle (which you can't see from our vantage piont), this particular story isn't so castle dependent so it was a pretty good vantage point.

Afterward, we ambled out along with 30,000 other people and caught our shuttle back to the resort. It wasn't lung before I was off to sleep.

All things considered, it was a good Disney day.

It's Sunday - So Here's Friday's Report!

Every trip has its kinks and ours showed up yesterday for our second full day of vacation.

(I didn't take many pictures yesterday because of general malaise, but I do have some and will add them to his report later.)

The day started with Dirk nursing an increasingly severe sore throat and cold, Katie noticing some muscle issues and potential blisters, and Jim and Leslie as the perky ones. Already a scary sign.

We made it to the 10:00 opening of California Adventure just fine. Our strategy was to head back to Toy Story Mania, while grabbing fastpasses for California Screamin' roller coaster and spend the morning knocking out the Paraide Pier attractions. Unfortunately, the California Screamin' Fastpass machine would accept the tickets but not issue fastpasses. The fastpass attendant was quite blunt there was nothing he could do. Some of the Walt Dinsey World experienced among us mentioned that they can usually open the Fastpass machine and free the pass (if it was jammed) or do an override. The attendant thought that idea was rediculous and suggested that some of might enjoy vacationing at WDW a bit more than here.

That dump-truck load of anti-pixie dust set Dirk off, so the last Leslie, Katie & Jim saw of him was the blur of his sneakers as he head to guest services, confident there was better way. Otherwise, our tickets would be frozen for future fastpasses for a couple of hours as the machine assumed we had received them even though it failed to print them out.

Guest Services were very, very helpful. They understood the situation immediately and issued a blanket fastpass for up to 6 of us for California Screamin' to be used once any time that day. So, having been made whole, we once again attempted to get on with out strategy.

The wait for Toy Stoy Midway Mani was 15 minutes - not long at all. The queue is very different than at WDW - definitely themed to a Victorian row of carnival games. We were loaded into our ride vehicles and had a blast - well, many blasts, considering you are basically shooting a laser canon at 3-D projects of midway games themed on the Toy Story movies. Very fun. Probably the most fun interactive attraction at Disney.

While Leslie, Jim and I made our way to California Screamin' standby, Katie decided to stick with Toy Story Midway Mania. No evil fastpass person was in site and the standby line was 15 minutes, so my plan of riding once standby and again with a fastpass seemed to work well. Leslie loved the coaster - this was her first ride - and I found it did wonders for my mucuous clogged head. Round 2, with fastpasses (due to a now 25 minute standby line) brough us into direct contact with Evil Fastpass Guy, who dutifully acted like he had never seen me before, we were waved right on through and rode the attraction again.

(In fairness to Faspass Guy, he was probably having a bad morning two with 4 of his 6 machines not working and frustrated guests asking questions. Disneyland Resort cast members are also famously touchy any time you mention WDW even exists. I also need to be clear, this is th eonly negative Disneyland cast member contact I have had in 5 years of visits - which is why I ceased arguing and went straight to guest relations because I knew they were the only ones who could do something.)

While waiting for us, Katie did Toy Story two times in the single rider line and then went off to First Aid for bandaids to deal with blisters from Birkenstocks that had not been as well trained as she had hoped. Once reuinited, we did Toy Story again, and then rode Mickey's Sunwheel. It was pleasant and cool, but seriously lacking given the lake is drained for construction of the myuriads of pipework for the new evening light and water show "World of Color" set to debut next year.

The temporary absence of water also meant the park was baking without a single cool breeze to temper the hot sun. Even the locals were commenting on the unusual humidity. So, Trenton is cooler than noremal this year and Anaheim is hotter and more humid than normal. Once again, a mis-timed vacation!

By now, we were ready for lunch. Dirk was depressed at the closure of the Corn Dog Castle since he loves corn dogs. Jim wanted a turkey leg. Leslie wanted healthy roll-up, and Katie a salad, so was just picked up cart food along the way until we all ended up with the lunch we wanted. By the time we ready to settle, we were at picnic tables right next to a milkshake stand. Now, that's pixie dust (and desert).

After lunch, we headed into the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of the California Adventure to get fastpasses for Tower of Terror and check out the times for Aladdin - the Musical. Leslie and Katie decied on a mid-day break but we wanted to see Aladdin, so we decided to meet up for dinner later.

The Aladdin show is a 45 minute musical version of the animated feature. The stagecraft is very well done, but the acting was a little sub par for this based on our prior experience. The show didn't feel as fresh. As usual, Genie took most of the laughs and applause, and his humor was as topical as ever. All in all, it was great to see, but I doubt we'll repeat it this trip.

We briefly flirted with the idea of using the 4 fastpasses we had for Tower of Terror amongst ourselves, but realized that wouldn't be fair, so we shopped a bit, rode the Monsters, Inc. dark ride and trundled on home for an afternoon break.

As can tell from the length of this post, I was able to internect connection in the lobby, but not in the room. The staff did their best though, and this morning, I have somewhat reliable access in the room with my PC netbook, but Jim's Macbook can't get a signal. Sigh. 21st century technology with 1940s war-time reliability.

For dinner, we ate at a California chain -Mimi's. Known for comfort food and oversized portions, but reasonable prices. I had Country Fried Steak - a one-time must for me in Calfironia; Jim had a cobb salad with very fresh and tasty avocado, Leslie had pot roast, and Katie had french dip. It was the kind of ending the day needed - except,

Leslie and I realized we would have to drive past the entrance to Disneyland on the way back to the hotel and we still had these 4 Tower of Terror fastpasses. Leslie though she could just get out and experience Tower four times in a row. I reminded her that one of them was mine, so WE could experience Tower 2 times in a row. She agreed, so off we went while the others went to veg in their rooms.

Tower of Terror in California Adventure is different than in Orlando - it's definitely smaller and less richly themed around the actual building, but there are some different effects so it really is a worthy member of the Tower pantheon. With now 4 Towers in Disney's "Terror Hotel" chain around the world, I believe each is different, sometimes, quite significantly, from the other. That's the way to copy an attraction!

Well, we strolled out just as the Electric Parade was ending, so we were expecting to beat the masses to the buses. Then, Leslie gets pulled for a 5 minute survey, which lasted 15 minutes, so we strolled out with the masses. But we did get to see the Disneyland fireworks from outside the park, which was fun.

Off to bed, and plans for a slow Saturday. We meet up mid-afternoon and have the Fantasmic Dessert Party reserved seating Saturday. Whoohoo!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jim with a wicked look on the tea cups.

Getting potested at General Convention

Jazz in New Orleans Square


We went to General Convention this AM, and then to an urgent care
center. Correlation does not imply causation.

Diagnosis: strep. We are now experiencing an eerily silent Dirk

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lunch at Blue Bayou

My computer connection in the hotel room is virtually nonexistent, so
I'm going to be limited to brief updates from the iPhone until the
hotel fixes it.

OK, after the subs we saved the universe from the Evil Emperor Zurg on
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and then introduced Leslie to the
marvel that is Disneyland's Space Mohntain. I'm sure Paris' is best
but we only know Orlando's version. Anyway, it was smooth, fast, and
sense altering. What more do you need?

We discovered the wait time for Pirates was only yen minutes so that
gave us time to enjoy the original classic before lunch. Katie and
Leslie pronounce it far superior to Orlando.

The Blue Bayou is Disneyland's best restaurant (for the park, not the
whole resort) and it's inside the Pirated attraction, inthe bayou
scene - hence the name.

They were able to seat us by the water with minimal wait so we think a
truck load of pixie dust was just delivered.

The started us off with crusty warm rolls reminiscent of German
broetchen or pretzel bread. Jim, Leslie, and Katie were determined to
go with the Monte Christo classic even if it would put them into a 5
hour stupor. Dirk thought he would be wise and go wig a pepper-crusted
steak that was very much like a prime rib. Alas, it was 20 ounces (or
so), which justified the price but wasn't practical. Dirk had
suggested to Jim that they just split a monte cristo but Jim looked at
him like he was Zurg's apprentice.

We were all given a slightly spicy and reasonably sized cup of gumbo,
though Jim opted for a salad. All dishes had the same sides of Blue
Bayou potatoes (basically an au gratin) and a vegetable mealy of white
asparagus and broccoli rabe. The cristos came with a raspberry jam for
dipping, as well.

We skipped the desserts but they brought out a chocolate mousse in
honor of Jim's birthday that we all split for that sweet ending we
believe every meal needs.

Afterward, we waddled to the New Orleans Square train depot and picked
up a train to Main Street. We missed the 2:15 shuttle home so we
hoofed it back rather than wait 30 minutes for the next one.

An afternoon of snoozing should prepare us for an evening of
fireworks. So far, the natal feast of James of Ewing ( do dubbed by a
classmate of Dirk's in honor of Jm'd birthday) has been pretty amazing!

Waiting For Nemo

Jim in the queue for the Nemo subs.

Morning In Fantasyland

So far we've achieved early entry at 7:00 am with the "Just In Time"
girls Katie & Leslie. Rode Peter Pan, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride,
Ponocchio's Daring Journey, Alice in Wonderland, The Matterhorn (Yay
for Katie's roller coaster courage!!), Storybook Land Canal boats,
Small World, Roger rabbit's Cartoon Spin, and we're in line for
Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage, and have Fastpasses for the best
Space Mountain in the US. Lunch will be at Blue Bayou inside Pirates
of the Caribbean.

Have a Magical Day everyone!!

It's Jim's Birthday!

And he's ready to party with Mickey.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We are finally at Disney!!

Fish Tacos!

Katie was super excited to be back in the land of good fish tacos, so we decided to stop and get some for lunch. After much research on Katie's, part, it was decided to try Senor Baja, which has the reputation for outstanding fish tacos.

Jim odered some as well, but Dirk went with a chicken burrito. Everyone was happy with their meal, and the place (though appearing to be something of a dive) had a clearly loyale Mexican clientale and the food was well done. Very fresh cilantro. Definitely recommend a quick stop if you're a fan of the quick Baja Mexican cuisine. . .

Katie & Leslie very happy after their lunch.
Posted by Picasa

Getting Settled

The Long Beach airport (LGB in IATA speak) does look kinda cool, though it feels like you stepped back into the 1950s. Modern bus terminals are glitzier than this - but it was all easy to negotiate.

The front view of the airport. It's Jetblue's West Coast hub, but limited to 41 daily flights for noise and neighborhood reasons. B6 (JetBlue in IATA code), has maxed out its slots and will have to expand to other regional airports. Still, it's much easier getting in and out than LAX would be, and it's a little closer than Orange County.

My first sighting of California vegetation in the LGB parking lot.

Our plane dwarfing the baggage claim area and coffee kiosk (really the only vendor at the airport!). All of this is a little freaky because we will have a 2 hour layover for our connecting flight from SFO (San Francisco) to IAD (Dulles).
Posted by Picasa

We're on California!

At Dulles

Leslie getting off the Super Shuttle at Dulles. We are at the gate and
appear a go for an on time departure. About 7 hours until Katie gets
a genuine west coast fish taco at Senor Baja. Dirk just wants a hotel
room after three hours of sleep last night.

Jim, as always, is type B mellow.

Waiting for the super shuttle

So, we're packed and waiting for a 5:10 Super Shuttle pick up to
Dulles for our flight to California. Listening to Fantasyland Dark
Ride Suite from the Disneyland 50th Anniversary music collection.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

OK - So Here's The Plan

When the Episcopal Church announced that our triennial General Convention would meet this year in Anaheim, Jim and I knew that there would be a trip to Disneyland and we knew that our colleague Leslie and friend Katie would tag along.

So, at 5:15 am tomorrow morning, Super Shuttle will pick us up in Arlington, VA and take us to Dulles for our JetBlue flights to Long Beach. We booked these months and months ago, taking advantage of credits received for a super-late departure of our January flights to WDW, and we have the Even More Legroom seats so it should be a comfy flight - what with 30 channels of Direct TV and 100 channels of XM satellite radio. Who needs a window to look out?

We're staying at the Candy Cane Inn - a rather kitschy sounding name for a highly regarded boutique motel right outside the entrance to Disneyland and across the street from the Anaheim convention center and General Convention. With free expanded continental breakfast around the pool and a short walk to the Disneyland entrance, what could be better?

We hope to meet our friend Valerie, coming down from Stockton for General Convention, for dinner tomorrow evening at Ralph Brennen's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. They are family owned and the food is still based on family recipes. Yummy!

We'll celebrate Jim's birthday Thursday at Disneyland with lunch at the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The rest of the time will be spent bouncing back and forth between General Convention and Mickey. Of course, with GC charging $30 for a day pass, we're likely to spend more time with Mickey. :)

Then, we split off from Katie and Leslie and head to Bakersfield to see friends and family in Taft, Corcoran, and Bakersfield, and then up to San Francisco to see Dirk's brother and catch up with a friend from Corcoran who wasn't in Corcoran but will be in San Francisco.

Well, that's the plan. Stay tuned for photos, food descriptions, and more!

Way station on the way

Jim discovers that recliners aren't evil at Leslie's.

On Our Way

Favorite rest stop on the way. Yes, didn't you know Maryland was on
the way to Anaheim?

Packing For Anaheim

Sophie is ready to be packed.